What’s the Password?

Did you know that 123456 is the most used password in the world? And a lot of that statistic is unlikely to be children. It is true that children, young ones especially, don’t tend to make strong passwords. Schools will usually generate them for the school devices and programs for ease of remembering and parents generally follow suit. However as early as possible, at an age appropriate for your child, creating passwords for their devices and accounts where their personal identity information is available is critical for their ongoing online safety. 

It’s tricky when children are setting their own passwords too as they will usually use the same password for everything to help them remember it easily and at a developmental stage where declarations of friendships involve trust and no secrets, sharing their password with their friends is common. 

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Researcher’s, Theofanos, Choong and Murphy (2021), found in their survey of more than 1,500 children from age 8 to 18, that positively children across the wide age group were being taught and were aware of the importance of password safety, they weren’t quite putting the guidelines learnt into practice 100% of the time.  

When it comes to password safety there are a few basic rules to keep in mind. 

Most Cyber Security organisations will say that 2FA or multiple factor authentication are the strongest defence against anyone trying to gain access to your private information. While fingerprint and facial scanning authentication is the way of the future for adults it isn’t always feasible for children. You want them to protect their information appropriate to their age and level of device, banking or social media usage. 

An alternative to, randomly generated but sometimes hard to remember, passwords outlined by the Australia Cyber Security Centre, is creating a Passphrase.  Passphrases are usually 14 characters or more and are made up of a sequence of random words for example, melontruckpurplemonkey. For younger children this may be a good compromise between a familiar choice like the name of their dog and a computer generated password they can’t remember. Because as we have all experienced account retrieval of any kind (especially ones of the apple variety) can be a very painful exercise. 

Cyber security, for children and adults alike, is only as strong as your passwords and the system you have created around managing them long term.   Educating children and teens that cyber security begins, very simply, with understanding how to create a strong password and a roadmap to continued protection online could be the greatest gift you give them as a parent. 

Now I’m off to update my passwords. You should too.  

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